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Time for Government to wise up on cannabis policy

There’s nothing surprising in today’s news that a quarter of UCC students have used cannabis, or ‘weed’ over the course of the past year, nor should there be.

irish cannabis drugsComparing the findings of this study with a recent one by the UCC Health Department on alcohol use, it’s hard not to see cannabis an unhappy victim of a ‘drugs taxonomy which doesn’t differentiate between truly harmful substances and ones merely classified as such.

A story which my colleague Greg O’Donovan covered a little over three weeks ago dealt with the findings of the same Health Department in relation to their drinking habits.

A quarter of men fight after they drink, with girls are fast catching up, as the average female now drinks – at least in UCC – about 3.7 pints on a night out, just short of the 4 pints at a time threshold the Department uses for its definition of what constitutes a ‘binge’.

One in ten students had been in a car driven by someone under the influence of drink, while a large number admitted to binge drinking on a regular basis.

Compare these findings to those in relation to cannabis, though. The only other conclusion this study had to draw about cannabis – besides that about a quarter of students use it – was that more males than females smoke it.

No statistics were reported on the amount of cannabis ‘binges’, nor were there findings about how many cannabis users had engaged in fighting after they’d taken a few hits. For good reason, too: such things practically don’t exist.

The only finding which would have set alarm bells ringing about cannabis, would have been if the team found – as they easily could have – that, say, 98% of cannabis users had either fallen asleep or found great relaxation after they’d used the ‘drug’, which in comparison to the fighting, agression and mental health problems we seem come out of alcohol, is something we could all live to deal with.

I’ve had recent correspondence with some of those working in the Irish cannabis lobby and who are pleading with the government that the current legal status of cannabis is as untenable as it’s ludicrous.

There were some promising murmurings from the government just a few months ago that they’d be willing to consider the plant’s legalization – at least for medical purposes – but I haven’t heard much since. Last time I heard a Compassionate Use of Marijuana Bill had even been drafted to get the show on the road.

Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Government has done a backgrack a-la-Obama on this hotly controversial topic, which would explain why there haven’t been more news stories. I hope I’m wrong, though.

Until the time when marijuana becomes legalized we’ll continue to have about a quarter if not more of students will lighting up, and making next year’s statistics in the process.

By Daniel O’Carroll

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